Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 A sewing review.

Many bloggers are doing their wrap up of the year, the best, the worst, hits and misses. Here's mine.

I think I blogged too much about sewing stuff ups through the year, so I've only included one. I willingly admit that I have errors-of-judgement that turn into cloth. How can anyone not?
But I also wonder how much of the mistakes people want to read about.

Opinions please?

I can't believe I managed 53 posts this year, 54 if you count this one. There were stretches when I felt I was hardly sewing at all or at the very least my heart wasn't in it, the joy gone in the midst of family illness, drama and more illness, including my sister in law almost dying of a heart attack. She felt ill and her husband (my brother) called an ambulance. She had a second infarct while in the ambulance on the way to hospital. Due to modern technology they could relay her ECG trace via the intenet while in transit to the hospital and they had the angiography suite ready and she was wheeled straight in to the OR and stented which saved her life.

I count my blessings, truly.

Mid year I bought a new camera and started a photo blog. I have a small band of photo blogging friends that visit my blog, even though I am an amateur. The photo blogging world is more competitive, and harsher but with both blogs I just remind myself to be me and do what I do. There will always be people who know more, people who know less. It is the way of things.

Hit. My very favourite garment of 2013 was The Crazy Coat V1212
blogged here.  I honestly love it. I wore it until the weather warmed up. It's the type of garment that I will love until it falls to pieces.

Hit. My most dramatic dress was vogue 8876 the Marcy Tilton dress which I made up twice. It's a fitted then flared hippy-esque swing dress with an eccentricity to it. Blogged here

Miss.  Oh Yes, I had a few. This is probably the doozy. Note to self : do not combine batwing sleeves with stripes across the not combine batwing sleeves with..  erkkkkkk! I sort of saved it by cutting it shorter but still did not wear it much. Blogged about here 

Misses hardly ever seem to be about the pattern itself. I think 'bad' patterns are pretty rare. It's usually a case of unwise combinations of material-pattern-body, or 'this pattern looked so good on so-and-so!'

Hit. In the happy land of nice dresses, my most worn dress that never fails to make me feel good is this humble number, Simplicity 3505 dress, blogged here. I have this one in rayon and two in cotton.

Hit on the gaining of wisdom front. I made Pants from scratch, in fact my most visited post of the year was about pants fitting here.

Hit. I overcame my fear of silk and made a special dress  McCalls 6277 that I love and got good comments in real life, blogged  here This dress deserved a better photo..the next version will have one..

Discovered a new to me pattern company.  Or is that 'I gave in and tried them at last?" After all the pants wrangling I did I discovered Style Arc has a crotch curve eerily similar to mine and my daughter's. Maybe we have an Aussie bum? Blogged here

Enough about 2013. 2014 awaits! I'll sew the other beautiful materials that are still in my stash. I'll go quality over quantity and stay true to my style and my body shape put more time into thought and planning.  Maybe then my wardrobe will be less of a hodge podge and become more cohesive..

Thank you for reading and please have a happy, healthy,  adventurous and satisfying 2014.


Friday, 27 December 2013

V1224 as a quick beach dress

Dear Blog Readers,

Firstly, I heard about the floods and power blackouts in the UK and I am glad that everything is starting to get back to normal over there. It seems that half the world boils and the other half freezes.
I hope you all had a good Christmas regardless and can all blog again!

Yesterday I made an almost recklessly quick sewing up of V1224 Tracy Reece dress before going to the beach in the afternoon with friends. I did these shots in a mad hurry too. I had grand plans of doing some glamorous beach shots but it just didn't happen. I feel bashful setting up my gear in public, but I hope these give you the idea.

I knew this was a good pattern, a zillion people on the internet had said so, and it is. The genius is in the cut of the bodice with batwing sleeves that hang just right, the comfort factor  of the dress after too much Christmas eating and the ease of construction. I have never made a dress in three and a half hours  from measuring in the flat to wearing it but I did with this one. Most of it was done with the serger.

It is from the same yardage as my daughter's Lola pants here
For some shots of where we went for our beach day see here

Have a happy weekend folks.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Simple in Silk McCalls 6277

Dear Reader,

This is the morning after the night of my friend's engagement party. I finally met my friend's intended in person, and liked him very much. They leave for the United States after Christmas to build their lives together. I can't believe it has all suddenly wrapped up. I've never seen her so happy. I'll miss her.
The event was held in a lovely tudor-esque function room with oak beams and ivy covered windows. A late evening rain shower broke the heat of the day to cool the evening air down. The food, the wine, the company, the happiness of the couple all made for a memorable night. Did I mention that this is not a young couple but living proof that love can come around again? Most of us around that table were in our fifties.

But I tell you what, it was a well dressed crowd. My friend was in a black and gold sari, looking stunning. The rest of us were in cocktail gear. There was a rainbow of nationalities. It was fun.

I don't know why I have never made a silk lined silk dress before. It was light as air to wear. It will be a very versatile addition to my wardrobe.

This morning I did some after-the-event shots to show you the dress. Please excuse the crumpled dress and rumpled face....

The pattern is M6277  Princess seams through the shoulder front and back make it easy to adjust but I was wary of making it too tight so it is a little bit loose. I will do a Pattern Review later. I have some light weight linen that would make up in this pattern for a nice unlined belted summer dress, like in the illustration. Right now the machine will remain untouched and I am going back to bed. I am doing nothing today. 

Happy Christmas,


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Butterick 5850 Fail or Thank Goodness I Made a Muslin

Dear Sewists,

Once again, I have been sewing like crazy but not blogging so this is another quick post before I hit my little machine again and sew, sew, sew. My friend's engagement party is at the end of this week and I had visions of B5850 made up in silk and finished by now so I could go out shopping like the rest of the world, catch up with people, relax a bit, you know?

B5850 had other plans. It's hanging here, unfinished, unhemmed. I've moved on and I may get back to it in the New Year. I do not know.

No, it hasn't grown legs. The ties are long enough to cross over at the back then tie in a bow at the front and still hang down to the hem.

So what's wrong? There is nothing wrong with the pattern as such. It's just wrong for me, or wrong in my trial rayon, or just wrong on me right now. Whatever, it's just wrong.

I can almost hear you say, but it's cute, almost oriental. What's the matter with you? Well. Something happens when I put on this dress. It turns frumpy. There is too much fabric going on at the neck, a double layer of fold, then pleat, then crossover. The front edge is on the grain, so the sides are off grain and thus prone to stretching. If I did this dress out again I would put the fronts on the conventional grain, stabilize the front edges then do away with the lined and folded over two inch wide facing. 

On me the ties are too wide and too long. I would make the tie separate and removable. The side seams need stabilization because of the grain issues and also for the zip. I realized this after the fact. 
I lined the skirt. This is not included in the pattern instructions or layout but most thin materials will need it.

I feel guilty pointing out this pattern's faults. It is not bad, you know. Just not good enough on me at this time to risk my expensive silk crepe from Tessuit's.

What now? Many phone photo consultations with my daughter later and another pattern chosen, I have just finished another muslin of what is basically a classic sheath. 
Dear Reader, it works. Sheath dresses never used to work on me. It's a mystery.
I have today off so I am working on it right now. There will be a photo, even if it is taken at the party.

Happy Pre Christmas & Busy-ness to you all,


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Style Arc Lola Pants

Hello People,

This is another catch up post. Yesterday as another hot summer's day blended into a hot Sydney night I took the bag of goodies I had made over to my daughter. The Elle work pants were met with delight before she even put them on but the first thing modeled for me were the casual Lola pants made from a crazy knit.

Lola is supposed to be for soft wovens such as rayon or silk, but I saw no reason why it would not work in a knit. My daughter had asked for elastic waisted casual pants and I knew Lola would fit the bill. She liked the result. She calls them her sort-of-harem-pants.

Every now and then we go fabric shopping together. I then take updated measurements, make some clothes for her. In return she cooks dinners and models for photos. Something that is very hard to get her to do otherwise - the modeling, not the cooking! I've made her quite a few black work pants over the years. It was fun to run up Lola.

Here's DD in the fading light.

Style Arc Lola

Lola was the free pattern in November and I must admit this was what prompted me to give Style Arc  a go, even though I live in Australia and the postage etc is not as prohibitive as for those of you who are buying from overseas. I am glad I took the plunge. Both patterns delivered up to date styling and contemporary fit. I flat measured the patterns first and compared the crotch to my draft for daughter's previous shorts. I was pleased to see that it would work. The pants come out looking like the line drawing of the pattern.  

Elle (to be reviewed) is as slim a fit as promised, sort of grown up leggings but Lola is simply the ideal casual summer pant. 

You can see the waistband detail and the slant pockets a little better here. The pattern has a variation with zippers in the pockets. I think this would drag down a light woven but you never now.. Also because of the intended zipper, the pocket pieces are in two slightly different sizes to allow for the width that an inseam zipper produces. I just used the larger pocket pattern for all  four pieces.

The instructions are clearly written. Both pants use a sandwich method of sewing the elastic in. With the Lola I  attached the elastic to the interfaced mid section seams on the inside before stitching in a circle to encase the elastic in then serging the whole thing onto the body of the pant. They came together very quickly. My daughter did not want elastic in the leg hems.

They are a hit. There will be more. In fact there is a piece of python print rayon in the stash calling my name. How long till Jungle January?

End note: I had some trouble placing my order with Style Arc. I was in a hurry and had made a typing error when entering my address and their automated system kept telling me I lived in America. This was frustrating in the extreme. I emailed Style Arc and they were understanding and helpful and professional in their attitude. The problem was eventually sorted out.

Their pattern pieces go together well. The instructions are very RTW. The fit is true to the measurements on their sizing charts.

Overall, I did not expect to be as impressed as I am.

Happy Sewing,


Monday, 9 December 2013

Sim OOP 7148 or Lots of Sewing vs Very Little Blogging

Dear Sewists,

Tis the lead up to Christmas, in case you haven't noticed and as my title suggests there has been a frantic amount of industry at Valerie's Sewing Room, all for other people, Oh ok, my two favourite 'clients'. I wanted to clear a backlog of I-promised-I'd-do before I can got to my Fabulous Party Dress. Only ten days and time's running out but I can finally cut out my rayon muslin and prewash my silk. Stay tuned.

What's been keeping me busy?

Firstly, a stack of sewing for my daughter. Two pants patterns arrived from Style Arc, including the "Lola" pattern that was the November freebie. My daughter and I both went "Oo gotta try that!" It's like a tapered harem pant.
The other pattern was the Elle pant, (nicknamed Elle-e-pants) which has been made up into two pairs of slim black stretch woven work pants. More about my inaugural Style Arc adventures in the next post. I am taking it all over to my daughter's later today, having dinner, taking some photos. Thank goodness for daylight saving. Hopefully there will be enough light.

The other sewing has been for my mother. She asked me to make some dresses. I took over two materials and a selection of patterns. She looked at the DKNY knit that I bought on my fabric meetup with Patricia and politely said "Oh that's nice dear".  I have some gutsier brown knit she liked better that will be her next dress. I may have to keep the DKNY :) Win win!

My daughter had bought a length of shimmery multi coloured poly knit when we went shopping for her pant materials and said 'Show her that'. Well she was right.  It was met with gasps of "Oh that's Lovely! Make it up in my favourite pattern"!

My daughter was thrilled at being right on with her fabric choice. I knew exactly which pattern my mother meant. She had made many house dresses from it over the years. Does anyone make caftans/house dresses any more?

It's from OOP Simplicity 7148

I will take it to Mum on the weekend. She doesn't get around much and lives in a retirement facility but still loves to dress well. I cannot remember my mother ever stepping outside the house looking anything but immaculate and stylish. She'll love this and will have something new to wear on Christmas day.

More catch up blogging soon,

Sunday, 24 November 2013

About time I posted Something..

Hello Sewists,

How's the party season going? Anyone else setting out to sew something special to go out in? I am waiting for some patterns to arrive in the post from Butterick, a company I seemed to have forgotten existed until I recently saw B5850 so beautifully made up by Goodbye Valentino.

Friends I had to have it! Mine, all mine, for my recently purchased silk and silk lining.
While I was at it I ordered a jacket pattern I just love. B5958

All the biker jackets that have been in for a while now do not suit my body but this I can do. I also like all the variations. I have enough material in the stash for that one. I do not want to go too crazy buying fabric now that I have opened the purchasing floodgates. My aim for next year is to make sure I only buy what I need to fill gaps in my wardrobe. To sew with some sort of organization, if not gulp A Plan. I like sewing where the wind of whimsy takes me, so you know, baby steps..

In the meantime, what have I sewn?

This, the silk/cotton skirt from Vogue 1247. the muslin was reviewed here.

I made the skirt a bit straighter than the green one and a touch longer.
The top in both sets of photos is embroidered stash cotton and the pattern is Burdastyle 135-07-2013,
reviewed here. I made it up with darts on both sides rather than the eccentric gather one one side dart on the other combo and it is a handy top to wear loose or tucked in. I was on my way out to lunch with some old school friends. We meet about three times a year to catch up. Today was back to being warm and summery so it was just the thing.

Hope all is good where you are,
Happy Sewing,

Friday, 15 November 2013

Hello! We've been shopping

Dear Bloggers,

Yesterday was my meetup with Patricia of the Red Cardinal blog. I had the chance to show her my two favourite Sydney fabric stores in person and talk fabric and art and sewing and everything. Through the magic of blogging something strange but wonderful happens. If you like someone through their blog somehow when you meet the words and the camaraderie and the sheer connection with them just flows.

We went to The Fabric Store first. She liked it hehe.. and then on to Tessuti

I don't know why I expected someone tall. She is a shorty pants like me!

In front of the two sided great cube of buttons at Tessuti, and near their red lounge that is good for collapsing on while making up one's mind on the delicious dilemma on what to purchase. We leafed through the Vogue and found that between us we have what seemed like 80% of their featured dress patterns...

I wasn't letting go of my fabric.

My booty. At the centre is the lovely Red Bird brooch that Patricia gave me. Did I mention that she is lovely in person? Underneath it is some DKNY knit from The Fabric Store for a dress for my Mum. To the right is a colorful knit remnant and to the left is a piece of pure silk and silk lining, extravagantly expensive by my standards, for a pre-Christmas engagement party dress, all from Tessuti.

We were at the door of Tessuti when it started to rain and the good gentlemen of Tessuti had just unloaded their van and they offered to give us a lift around the corner to Crown Street, where we had lunch in a trendy cafe.

Thanks for a nice day Patricia. I enjoyed being your partner in crime fabric purchasing.


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Impromptu Sydney Meetup Friday 15th November

A Meetup in Sydney, no word of a lie.

It is always a real treat to meet up with sewing blog friends. I have done this while overseas on two occasions and always had a great time. Usually months of planning and many emails go into these things. It is ironic that I have not been to any sewing meet ups here.

Well impulse and opportunity has led to one of my own! I am meeting up with Patricia of Red Cardinal
who will be visiting Sydney from Brisbane on that weekend. It will be so good to meet her! Any sewists who will be in Sydney, or can come to Sydney on Friday, November 15th are invited to come too. We will meet at the Elizabeth Street entrance to Central Station (around the corner from the Fabric Store) at 10 am for a morning's fabric shopping and then lunch.

This is the Plan:

On Friday, 15th November
Meet at Central Station, Elizabeth St entrance at 10 am
Walk to The Fabric Store, 21 Cooper St Sydney, then walk to
Tessuti, 110 commonwealth St, Surry Hills, then on to
Oxford Square for lunch

If you are interested email me so we know to look out for you.

After all, fabric is

xx Val.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Late for the train, but I finally got on .. V1247 Skirt

Dear Readers, You know the pattern. You've seen it before. Just about every person and their dog or cute photogenic cat has reviewed it in blog land, or the top that goes with it. It was a Pattern  of the Year over on Pattern Review. It is Vogue V1247 It has been sitting in my stash, in the queue, patiently waiting.

Last week, dear reader, I needed an art gallery/fabric shopping fix and went to my two fabric shops in Sydney, Tessuti and The Fabric Shop where I got my fabric fix. Two pieces of beautiful fabric. One of them was a remnant of silk/cotton in an ikat print just big enough for the skirt. The other is a piece of  abstract print linen. It felt so good to buy exquisite material!

Anyway, before cutting into the silk I needed to make a wearable muslin to make sure that a horizontal line around that part of my torso was a good idea. As most of us know, just because a pattern works for someone else..or a hundred someone else's does not mean it will work on our own bodies, Pattern of the Year on PR or not.

But it's a winner, almost to my consternation, the perfect A Line skirt.

Cute in seam pockets. Couture instructions. Silky, floaty top which I will try soon.
Needless to say I did not go couture on this piece of kid curtain material from Spotties..

I lengthened the skirt from 17". I have winter scarves wider than a respectable above knee but still ended up with only 1cm hem allowance.. added a centre front seam because I thought topstitching would add something to the skirt. Will backtrack on that one. I finished the seams with my serger and pressed them open. I wrestled with the pocket construction because I also had the bright idea of topstitching just the pocket part first. I won't do that again either. My zip was neither hidden nor couture.

What I will keep was the method of making a straight narrow self facing waistband instead of the strangulation waistband included for the wasp waisted.

What I did get was a skirt I liked, will make again in the silk.

It's a keeper, a good pattern for the summer season.

Happy Cup Day to my fellow Aussies.  Melbourne Cup Field for today's race


Sunday, 3 November 2013

Easy as can be Simplicity 2374

Dear Bloggers,

My DD came over yesterday and we had a very enjoyable morning together. I had made her some little boxer style shorts, which is what she likes to use for sleepwear. These are from Simplicity 2372 with no changes, just using the shorts pieces from View E. The material is a cute cotton from Spotlight with little white pigs.

I got a happy dance from her. I have used this pattern for her before dress with ruffle. It is an easy pattern with lots of good interchangeable elements.

DD was also happy to get some Cargo pocket shorts from New Look 6251, which I had previously made for myself.  Cargo Pants with custom made back  She liked mine so much she wanted some too!

I made a custom back piece for her. Genetics will rule. It is very similar to mine, sway back etc. she was very pleased with it. To quote my DD "There is nothing better than a custom made crotch".

BTW she is wearing high heels because she had brought over a bridesmaids dress for her BFF's wedding for me to shorten.  The wedding is in two weeks and the excitement is running high.. Everything at the moment is BW (before wedding) or AW (after wedding). Heaven help us all if it was DD's wedding..

Happy Sewing,

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Playing with the Plus Sizes Burdastyle 134-07-2013

I love Burdastyle when it is innovative and they take a leap off the bridge, stylistically speaking. Nested in the midst of a run of predictable/simple/boxy in the regular sizes sometimes they lash out with wonderfully experimental offerings. I found one of these in the plus size section of July 2013 Burda. It is a bit of a 'what the' top or dress with gathers on one side and a dart on the other side. Not being one to let the occasional experiment pass me by I decided to cut out a bit of pale cream ITY Jersey but cut the front on the fold so that I had under bust gathers on both sides. I scaled it to my normal Burda 42. I brought in the back neck by one cm  and the side necks by a half cm. I took 2cm off the centre front curve of hem.

I made the mistake of snipping the gather all the way to the point, thereby elongating that seam by 2cm.
This was a mistake, along with assuming that, going by the line drawing, the gather would fall relatively snuggly under the bust. It does not! On my short stature and moderate boobage it is almost a waist gather. I suspect that even on someone taller these gathers would sit fairly low.

Or does Burda magazine assume that all plus size ladies are six foot tall amazons with full busts?
Can someone tell me?

Regardless, I present exhibit A. Thankfully it works, when tucked in.

Skirt purchased several summers ago at my favourite place in Sydney to shop for a bargain, designer outlet  Birkenhead Point. I love this skirt and happily this style is having a resurgence. Op Shop shoes. I really like to mix it up!

I have to admit I am feeling tempted to go the full quirky and make it with a dart on one side as drafted but shorten the whole thing to my proportions and do it in stretch lace as recommended and line it.

Or, I could keep the silhouette of it and eliminate the dart and gathers and just ease it in at the sides at the bust. Or just use darts.

Is your creative process like this. Do ideas circle like a flock of birds till one of them lands? Or are you more organized than I am?

Here is a diagram from the magazine.

 I've got some white lace somewhere in the stash... gargh

Happy musing,


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Easy Sewing

After all those pants I needed some quick, easy sewing that soothes the mind and restores the sewing mojo. Just cut it out and make it. No puzzles, no mad experiements. No bleach. (My bathroom and floors have never been cleaner, recycling that stuff!)

I made a sort of A line/circle skirt. It is a bit less than a quarter circle when laid out flat, front and back the same, with a zipper and elastic through a narrow waist band. The straight of the grain is through the centre front and centre back.  the back has a centre seam to save on material. I could have done away with the zipper, it is just wide enough to pull over my hips.

I had forgotten how nice it is to wear a skirt with a bit of swish.

The material is a cotton sateen from Spotlight in black with jewel colors and a black grid pattern on top.
Have you ever looked at a material on the roll and thought, no, won't work, then you see it draped it over a dummy in the store and see the possibilities? This was one of those. It may have been too  much as a dress but it works as a skirt.

Oh and that boxy T based on Sim 3775 from my previous post?

The material is quite thick, with not much stretch but I like the neckline and the modified cap sleeves (extended by two inches and straightened across the hem) and will be using the idea again.

Off to put on the flippy skirt and go shopping..

Yesterday afternoon much of Sydney was covered in a pall of smoke that looked like a brown and purple bruise as the soot and debris of bush fires was carried on 89K winds. Fires ringed the mountains to the east and south. The temperature was a freaky 36 C. This followed two dry hot months. My commiserations to any one affected. On the news it says about 200 homes have been burnt down and it is not even summer yet. No lives have been lost, so everyone is counting their blessings.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A tub of bleach and a revamp of NL 6251

Hello People,

In my previous post I made New Look 6251 cargos from chambray and I wrote about how they just didn't come out how I wanted. While my daughter's reaction was 'ditch them!' I was convinced it was the color that was the problem. I had a bottle of bleach and had bought some olive green dye. I experimented a scrap of the chambray in a little bowl and poured some bleach into it, went to work and later in the day this was the rather interesting result.

I am a tie dyer from the 70's but the only time I had played with bleach was to do dribbly zig-zag borders on tank tops using it full strength. I had not thought of it as an agent to use on yardage until I read this post by the very creative Shams

I have other plans for my green dye. The bleach won. I laid my pants on a plastic sheet and sprayed them with a solution that was roughly half/half bleach and water and let them dry. The result wasn't pale enough so I then made up a bucket of one and a half cups of bleach to the bucket of warm water, dunked my pants in and left them for twelve hours. Then I had the result I wanted. You can see a faded version of the original color in the seam line.

The next thing to do was to take them in, mainly at the belt. I unpicked half the back seam and took out a total of one inch of the back seam and also of the belt, which I cut at the CB. I also increased shaped it in a bit. Then it fit. I left off the CB belt loop. It would have been too bulky and now I don't need the belt.

The next thing I did was stitch the pleats on the pockets in place so they wouldn't gape like pack saddles the minute I used them.

From granny pants to casual cargos.
Time for some tops, in white, something I need. This is on the sewing table.

A little short boxy T, using bits from Simplicity 3775 as a starting point. I can shape it up or trim it down as I go..

Happy sewing,